Saturday 12:45-2:15 ET

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Poster Session 4: Expanding Repertory For Pedagogy / Text Delivery In Pop And Rap

Kyle Adams (Indiana University), Chair

Songs of Katherine Ruth Heyman: A New Diversity Resource for the Undergraduate Classroom

Anna Stephan-Robinson (West Liberty University)

bio for Anna Stephan-Robinson

Anna Stephan-Robinson is Professor and Director of Music Theory and Ear Training at West Liberty University in West Virginia, where she has taught Musicianship, Music Theory, Ear Training, and horn. Her areas of research interest include analysis of twentieth- and twenty-firstcentury concert and popular music, music of women composers, and theory and aural skills pedagogy. She has published and presented regionally, nationally, and internationally on these topics. Anna holds degrees in Music Theory (Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY), Horn Performance (University of Georgia in Athens), and Music Education (Aaron Copland School of Music, City University of New York).


Notwithstanding new resources such as Music Theory Examples by Women and the Composers of Color Resource Project, it remains a challenge to obtain readily usable scores and recordings of music not written by white men. My poster features the music of Katherine Ruth Heyman (ca. 1872-1944), a white, American woman who wrote at least seventy compositions as well as a theoretical treatise. I present selected songs for solo voice and piano, composed over a 22-year span. The musically diverse compositions in this group can exemplify many theoretical concepts, ranging from basic first-year content such as simple/compound meter, interval identification, and diatonic harmony to more advanced topics such as symmetrical scales, extended and non-tertian harmony, and unmetered music. I will share an extensive annotated score packet and high-quality recordings (both licensed under Creative Commons) upon request.

Heyman’s professional circle included many illustrious figures, but she has fallen into obscurity. To the extent that she is remembered, it is as a pianist who championed the music of Scriabin and as the founder of the society dedicated to that composer. With the exception of Poriss (1998), scholars have considered Heyman exclusively in the roles of performer (of Scriabin) and muse (to Ezra Pound). Furthermore, until I produced a recording of fourteen of her songs, no recordings of her music existed. Heyman’s music is thus an exciting untapped resource for study.

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Diversity and Deeper Learning: Teaching Theory through Touchstones

Angela Ripley (Baylor University)

bio for Angela Ripley

Angela Ripley is a Lecturer in Music Theory at Baylor University. Her research focuses on music theory pedagogy, with a specialization in pedagogical games. Other areas of interest include form and contemporary church music. She has a Ph.D. in music theory from The Ohio State University and has held faculty appointments at the College of Wooster, the University of Alabama, and Baylor University. She has presented her research at national and regional meetings of the Society for Music Theory and at Pedagogy into Practice: Teaching Music Theory in the Twenty-First Century. Her articles appear in the Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, Music Theory Pedagogy Online, and HAYDN: The Online Journal of the Haydn Society of North America.


In the wake of the SMT 2019 plenary session “Reframing Music Theory,” diversity has garnered increasing attention in the field as music theorists consider issues of composer and theorist identity and interrogate biases implicit in traditional methods of analysis. Advocates for greater diversity in theory pedagogy recognize the potential benefits for future generations of musicians while acknowledging the challenge of finding appropriate pieces to share with students (Palfy and Gilson 2018, Stroud 2018). In this presentation, I outline a pedagogical approach that emphasizes pieces by diverse composers and promotes deep learning (Alegant 2014, Lang 2016) through recurring engagement with a complete piece, or “touchstone,” to which students apply each concept they learn during a course. For example, Theory II students explore second-inversion triads, motives, cadences, small forms, non-chord tones, diatonic seventh chords, and secondary-function chords in Cécile Chaminade’s “Idylle” (Op. 126, No. 1). I discuss criteria for effective touchstone pieces, suggest nine possible touchstones for Theory I–III, and share analytical highlights of the repertoire I recommend. As reflected by the pieces I suggest—including four by women composers and three by composers of color—touchstones provide opportunities to highlight work by composers from historically underrepresented groups (Hisama 2018, Malawey 2020). Using a touchstone piece by an underrepresented composer reduces the risk of tokenism by elevating the piece to a prominent position within the course. Students who analyze touchstone pieces deepen their understanding of music analysis by examining course concepts in the authentic context of complete works of music.

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Some Properties of Text Delivery and Melodic Rhythm in Post-Millennial Popular Music

Christopher Wm. White (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Mara Breen (Mount Holyoke College)

Joe Pater (University of Massachusetts Amherst)


This paper compares two corpora of melodies drawn from pre-millennial and post-millennial American popular music, and identifies several notable differences in their use of rhythm. The pre-millennial corpus contains 80 melodies written between 1957–1997 (Tan, Lustig, and Temperley 2018), while the post-millennial corpus (compiled for this study) consists of 24 songs popular between 2015–2019. For both corpora, we analyzed 1) the distribution of note onsets within a measure; 2) the most-frequent four-note rhythms; and 3) the density of note onsets within measures. Our analyses indicated that the post-millennial melodies distribute notes more evenly throughout their measures, show a greater diversity of rhythms, and use greater note-onset density. However, we also found that individual songs re-used rhythmic cells with more internal consistency in the post-millennial dataset. We then analyze Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” a 2019 song (not included in the original analysis) that features many characteristics typical of our post-millennial corpus. We subject many of these features to a computationally-aided close reading, showing how these parameters can be used to support the song’s formal and expressive designs.

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Flow in the Alter Egos of Nicki Minaj

Hanisha Kulothparan (Eastman School of Music)

bio for Hanisha Kulothparan

Hanisha Kulothparan is a first year Ph.D. student in music theory at the Eastman School of Music and a recent alum of Michigan State University. Her research focuses on rhythm and meter in rap music and its intersections with gender studies. She has presented her work at several conferences such as the South-Central Society for Music Theory and Music Theory Southeast. Her paper “Flow in the Alter Egos of Nicki Minaj” is the most recent winner of MTSE’s Irna Priore Prize for best student paper. Hanisha has been invited to several schools as a guest lecturer for her work on Nicki Minaj including Northeastern University and Wilfrid Laurier University.


Alter egos have played a prominent role in the history of rap like Ghostface Killah as Ironman and Tupac as Makaveli. In hip-hop’s approach to fiction, the vocal differentiation of characters is important. Nicki Minaj portrays alter egos in her music, with her most popular personas being “Roman Zolanski” and “Harajuku Barbie.” In this presentation, I explore Minaj differentiates these two personas using her vocal pitch, lyrical vocabulary, and the structure of her verses. Ultimately, these elements of her personas align beyond these qualities and relate to the stereotypical portrayals of men and women in rap music.  

Kyle Adams (2009) states rappers distinguish their styles through a set of parameters. Looking at specific parameters that are manipulated within Minaj’s flow can distinguish her alter egos.  Robert Komaniecki argues that “some songs exemplify a high unity of flow, where rappers manipulate their delivery to conform to or differentiate from other artists featured in a song” (2017, 1.3). Minaj differentiates her flow to enhance the stereotypical differences of Roman and Barbie. Finally, Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) use grouping preference rules (GPRs) to define how listeners interpret groupings in a passage. I will revise GPR6 (parallelism) to three specific elements of each persona: textual parallelism, rhymed parallelism, and rhythmic parallelism. 

Through several elements in her flow, Nicki Minaj is able to differentiates her alter egos, which will be proven through the mentioned methodologies. My revision to L+J’s GPR6, I argue, might be useful in analyzing flow in rap music as a whole. 

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